By Stephanie Dickison Braised is a new restaurant in Leslieville that specializes in modern comfort food. This means you still get satisfying fare that will fill you, but without the heavy fats and creamy sauces. Owner Sam Scanga of Lolita’s Lust created a menu of items he wanted to eat - fun dishes that won’t leave you with the afternoon dozies. Starters include a Braised Kale & Goat Cheese Tart ($10) served with fresh greens - a modern interpretation of spanikopita – and Crispy Pork Cheeks ($8) pictured above, braised in Cameron’s Brewery beer and served with tartar sauce and raspberry coulis to keep it fresh and light. Should you want something a little heartier, the Short Rib Poutine ($16/$25) ought to do it, with braised short rib, jus, frites, peppercorn and cheddar. The menu has been expanded to include seafood (squid, shrimp and Mahi Mahi) and vegetarian items such as Southern Fried Tofu ($10) and Roasted Beet Salad with olives and crispy kale ($9/$12).  A la carte sides have been removed so now dishes are complete meals, and new mains have been added such as the Grilled NY Striploin AAA, 9 oz. from Alberta ($28). Selections such as braised and grilled Lamb Shoulder ($21), served with kale and roasted potatoes and Osso Bucco ($27) with red wine, tomato reduction, kale, potatoes and gremolata are perfect winter dishes, but so is the Ocean Wise Certified Sauteed Feta Shrimp ($25) with white wine, a little cream, lemon and feta, wilted kale and quinoa. It’s comfort food made for today’s palates – and waistlines. By no means is this health food, but with many dishes come with grilled rapini, kale or quinoa - all superfoods that experts urge you to pack into your already crammed diet. Why not have it while you’re out for dinner? Whether you come with the family, for a party or date night, Braised offers fantastic food that our bodies are screaming out for during the cold winter months. Just without the heavy, creamy, high fat sauces. For an look at the stunning interior, check out The Reveal. And head to our Facebook page for a closer look at the food. Braised is open for lunch, dinner and brunch and offers no corkage BYOB on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.

By Stephanie Dickison For the months of April and May when you dine out at participating restaurants, you can make a difference to a hungry child. During Love Food Give Food 2016, each participating restaurant will select a special menu item or items and donate $1 from the dish(es) to support Action Against Hunger’s fight against malnutrition. Founded in France in 1979, Action Against Hunger is a leading international  humanitarian organization working in over 45 country, committed to ending world hunger, with a special focus on children under five. Participating restaurants include:

For more details, visit Love Food Give Food.

By Stephanie Dickison In our series, ICONIC, we feature people in the restaurant industry whose contributions have made a mark. They have transformed how we think about food and restaurants. Ivy Knight is a food writer, cookbook author and events organizer. She and her 86’d nights at The Drake Properties are part of the reason why pop-ups and chef battles are still so popular, and she is one of the most original, funny and truthful voices in food we’ve got. Ivy shares how she started in the biz and all the amazing things that have happened along the way. How did you get into the business? After high school on the island (Prince Edward Island) I moved to Vancouver and took a bunch of stupid, pointless jobs. Then I met Kerry Knight, now my husband, fellow writer and Swallow contributor. Back then he was a rowing coach and he got headhunted by a rowing club in Texas, so we moved to Austin. I had no work visa, no job – I was a bored housewife. I watched the American Food Network all the time and was really interested in cooking. Since I couldn’t work in the States I flew back to Canada for a summer stint at Chez Piggy in Kingston to work garde manger. It was a great kitchen to have as my first kitchen. It was tiny, blisteringly hot and outrageously busy. If I could handle those conditions and keep coming back, it meant I could probably handle cooking for a living. I could handle it. After Chez Piggy, we moved back to Canada and I worked at Mildred Pierce in Toronto. I suspect that the only reason I got the job was because the chef misread my resume, thinking that I’d worked at Chez Panisse. I was there for a year or so, then Biff’s, and a bunch of places that are no longer around. Then I went to the Drake. I started in the kitchen back in 2007, and worked there for 2 to 3 years. My final shift came just after my ten year anniversary as a cook. At the five year mark, I realized I didn’t have the right temperament, or the desire, to be a head chef. That’s when I started writing and planning to leave the kitchen. It took a long time, another five years, before I could afford to stop cooking and write full time. The Drake had already launched 86’d – an industry night on a Monday. Bill Simpson was the GM at the time and doing the programming. He saw that I’d been hosting informal cooking battles around town and let me do one at 86’d, it was a big hit and he asked me to permanently take over the night. I winged it and tried a lot of things, a lot of things didn’t work out, but the ones that did stuck and now the programming is much more streamlined and easy to schedule. I know what will work with the 86’d crowd. One thing I’ll never underestimate with them again, because I did it once and shame on me, is how much they love fried chicken. That is the craziest night of the year. Although, this year’s recent Sustainable Ceviche Smackdown had a lineup out into the lobby that didn’t let up for two hours, so that’s a popular one too. I remember bringing in La Carnita, Rock Lobster and Fidel Gastro’s at different times, back when they were all pop ups and look where they are now – they’ve all got restaurant empires. It’s nice to think that 86’d helped to support them all when they were just starting out. This summer I’ll be doing two 86’d events with the talented, young Peruvian chef Elias Salazar. He just won Judge’s and People’s Choice in the ceviche battle (something that has never happened in the six years I’ve been running it) so I think he knows what he’s doing and that we can expect big things from him in the future. While cooking at the Drake and hosting 86’d I was also writing. At first for free for websites like Gremolata and Good Food Revolution. James Chatto helped me get small pieces in Toronto Life and the first piece I wrote for The Toronto Star was about how much I hated Winterlicious, while working at a restaurant that participated in ‘Licious. My first story for The Globe & Mail was about how much I hated cooking brunch while actually cooking brunch. I’m lucky I didn’t get fired both times. I was finally able to leave the kitchen life when I was hired as a researcher on Pitchin’ In with Lynn Crawford. I continued with writing gigs and spent the summer on location with the show travelling all over North America. What people don’t know about what your job entails There is no money in it. That’s why I do so many projects at once. There may be no money but there is definitely a lot of fun and incredible food and wine and travel experiences. Writing takes a lot of my time, but I don’t write for the papers as much anymore. Most of my writing is for Munchies (Vice), Swallow and the books I’m working on, as well as the twice weekly blog for my favourite grocery store, Fiesta Farms, and a quarterly column Kerry and I do for Buffalo Spree. I do 86’d at all three Drake Properties – The Drake Hotel, Drake One Fifty and Drake Devonshire. I do programming for Field Trip and the Terroir Symposium. I’ve written two books (published by HarperCollins) and have a third in production, I’ll start a fourth this fall. I run a job group on facebook to help cooks find jobs and chefs find cooks, it has grown to over eight thousand members since I started it. Now, people use it for much more than just employment searches. If you need to find a source for ostrich meat, or a place to sell your restaurant’s old wall sconces you can do it on the Food and Wine Industry Career Navigator. I have Dyson Forbes helping me run that, which is a great help. The hardest thing about the business One of the hardest parts of the job is pitching. I have a hard time pitching. And with travel stories, I don’t know what I’m going to write about until I’ve had the trip. The other is attempting to get stuff done outside of the house and away from the computer, or to get away from social media. There’s always one thing or another. But anything is better than having to cook brunch. The best thing about it: Vice – it’s closer to my voice than other publications. I’m glad for the experiences I had at the Toronto Star (brunch column) and The Globe & Mail. I don’t come from journalism school and the work I did with editors at both papers, Kim Honey and Kathryn Hayward, definitely helped me grow as a writer. My editor at Vice, Helen Hollyman, is incredibly tough, writing for her has been a real education. Travel writing is more of a perk. People find us through Swallow and invite us on media trips, Kerry went to Israel last month and I’m going to San Francisco in July. Where you work The Drake Lounge is my favourite space for meetings. Otherwise, I have a desk in my bedroom. My husband’s desk is the dining room table. One rule you will never break: I will never write copy for McDonald’s. I only say that because I was asked to and I could’ve really used the cash flow but I forced myself to think about pink slime and downer cows and then it wasn’t that hard to say no. One rule that you have broken That I would never eat at McDonald’s, but it happens. I don’t actually have a lot of rules. Because there are so many moving parts to what I do for a living I try to just be flexible. What strengths do you bring to your work Because of the time I spent in the kitchen, I have a prep list going for all of the projects I’m working on at any given time. The structured map helps keep me on track. Working in a kitchen gave me the ability to multitask like a motherf***r.

By Stephanie Dickison What truly fascinating openings this week. There’s a little bit of everything including wild boar, fancy toasts, endless beer, Cuban fare and elevated sushi. And a host of events that will leave little time for anything else but eating and drinking. How great is that? Here’s the very latest:

By Patricia Noonan Toronto is gearing up for TIFF 2015 and so are the bars, restaurants and hotel lounges. While almost any place in the TIFF zone is fair game, there are several places, old and new, that are great for star watching. The 'usual suspects' where you can sip and savour the TIFF celeb scene are venerable spots like The Roof Lounge at The Park Hyatt or One Restaurant's bar at The Hazelton Hotel for that tony Yorkville experience. For the downtown scene, The Thompson Rooftop Lounge, The Ritz-Carleton DEQ Lounge and Luma are destinations in and of themselves for any kind of people watching. At Luma, a star studded cocktail list including drinks like The After Party or The Red Carpet and yes, a Hollywood North champagne-styled cocktail. The InterContinental Toronto Centre is TIFF-central for North American press junkets, so it’s quite likely you’ll see stars at Azure Restaurant and Bar, just off the hotel lobby. Their cocktail list includes a Hollywood North Martini, among other themed drinks. Just add the TIFF factor and any cocktail hour becomes imbued with star quality, not to mention fabulous drink potential. At East Thirty Six on Wellington Street East, star quality cocktails have been created with several of the top films in mind. TIFF themed cocktails are matched up with the festival and several films. The film Lolo features Violette, a forty-something character, matched with the Kir Provençal, a complex, flavour layered champagne-style cocktail. The E36 Smoked Boulevardier pairs with the TIFF opening night gala presentation, Demolition, while the London Amaro cocktail is a nod to the film Legend, based on the true story of the Kray brothers -identical twin gangsters ruling the nightclub scene in swinging sixties London.

By Patricia Noonan It's that star-studded time of year in Toronto again... and not only does that mean movies and after parties, it also means swanky, star quality cocktails. And hotel alley, AKA Wellington Street West, is close to all the TIFF action. The Ritz, Soho and of course The Thompson Hotel will make for all sorts of people and star gazing. So if you're just milling around wondering where to find quality cocktails, find your way over to the bar or patio at Colette Grand Cafe, in The Thompson Hotel. Lead bartender Zak Doy is a world seasoned pro with numerous bars behind his belt. From the Middle East, Australia, London, Barcelona and other spots throughout Europe, Zak has a global feel for the latest cocktail trends. Elegant, harmonious and full of flavour, Zak’s cocktail creations make use of some elusive star ingredients. Jasmine's Secret is a champagne style cocktail with a unique twist. Zak uses tea syrup and fresh, edible flowers for a stunning take on this classic. Have one of these and you'll definitely feel like a star.

By Stephanie Dickison Last night, Toronto’s Serial Diners celebrated their 25th anniversary. The ever-evolving dining group has been eating out at restaurants listed in the Yellow Pages, every Friday at 6pm since. They started at A (The AC Ranch Café on St. Clair Ave. W., where they didn’t really serve food. It was more of a club for elderly Italian gentlemen, but a woman there put on a massive pot of spaghetti that never seemed to decrease in volume.). Last night, they got to "M," with Mariachi’s on Yonge next on the list, so that’s where they celebrated. It all started though, back in 1989.

By Stephanie Dickison While the openings and closings may have slowed for just a quick second, the news and events are still as exciting as ever. Check out the very latest:

By Stephanie Dickison Morton's the Steakhouse, located in Yorkville at the Park Hyatt Hotel, is unique in that it's the only Canadian location of the American brand. What started in Chicago back in 1978 has expanded to over 69 restaurants, and luckily, one right here in Toronto. Morton's is just one of a few steakhouses in the city, and is celebrating 15 years in business. Here are just a few reasons to visit this iconic restaurant.

By Stephanie Dickison Calling all beer lovers – you have over a week to explore local-based craft beer across the entire province thanks to this incredible festival. This year’s Ontario Craft Beer Week features over 225 craft fantastic beer events in 45 communities across the province from June 12th- 21st, 2015. And starting today, you can get the first ever official Ontario collaboration beer "Ontario Table Beer." The beer (4% alc./vol.). was brewed by over 25 Ontario Craft Brewers at Great Lakes Brewing and will be available at over 15 breweries and over 35 pubs and restaurants throughout the province. The beer was brewed with yeast from Niagara Escarpment. Unfiltered and naturally cloudy, you’ll note aromas of "apple, vanilla and hints of funk." It's also "Light in body, touch of lemon and tangerine with some barnyard notes," according to organizers. Proceeds from the sale of the beer will go to the Ontario Association of Food Banks.

By Rose Reisman Toronto is currently filled with a plethora of burger restaurants. These days there is a big difference between the burgers you get a fast food joint and what’s served up at a gourmet restaurant. My attitude is that if you’re going to occasionally splurge on these delicious calories and fat you may as well have the best burger in town. In 2014, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, located in Liberty Village, had one of the tastiest burgers I’d ever encountered.  The MTK burger is a half pound of beef, which is ground on the premises, and is topped with tomato relish, crispy tobacco onions and served on a homemade “pain au lait” bun. It’s the signature onions that put the final touch on this mouth-watering burger.  To get this tobacco-like look, these red and yellow onions are floured, sprinkled with paprika and cayenne pepper, and fried. Mildred’s takes classic meals such as burgers, Caesar salad, risottos, ribs and chicken and gives them a hip twist. Diners love the open, perfectly lit industrial dining space with it’s sleek and modern feel. In the warmer months there’s a beautiful summer patio overlooking a lush garden. If you’re dining at home during barbeque season, grill up your own version of a gourmet burger with my Greek Feta Burger recipe. Greek Feta Burger Serves 5 1 cup chopped mushrooms 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/3 cup light feta cheese, crumbled 1 lb extra-lean ground beef or lamb 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives or green onions 3 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano 2 Tbsp barbecue sauce 3 Tbsp dry seasoned breadcrumbs 2 tsp minced fresh garlic 1 egg 3 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano or parsley

  1. Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking oil; add the mushrooms and onions and cook over medium-high heat for 4 minutes or until softened and browned. Remove from the heat. Stir in the feta.
  2. Combine the beef, chives, oregano, barbecue sauce, breadcrumbs, garlic and egg in a bowl. Stir in the onion mixture. Mix thoroughly. Form into 5 patties.
  3. Spray a non-stick grill pan or barbecue grill with cooking oil and heat to medium-high. Grill the patties for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until no longer pink in the center. (Alternatively, place on a baking sheet in the center of a preheated 450ºF oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked through, turning once.) Garnish with oregano and crumbled feta cheese, if desired.

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Make Ahead: Prepare to the grilling stage up to a day in advance, cover well and refrigerate. Grill just before serving. Nutritional Analysis per Serving Calories 194 Protein 21 g Fat 9.6 g Saturated Fat 3.6 g Carbohydrates 5.9 g Cholesterol 76 mg Sodium 210 mg Fibre 0.8 g Source: The Complete Light Kitchen (Whitecap Books) By: Rose Reisman Photo: Brian MacDonald, from The Complete Light (Whitecap Books)

By Stephanie Dickison Lucero Wong has been cooking her native Mexican food here in Toronto for the last 26 years. Originally from Mexico City, Lucero came here with recipes for tamales and mole that she’d learned from her mother and two neighbours. The three women would make breakfast and lunch from 3am to 7am. They would do everything from grinding corn in a stone mill to killing the chicken, plucking it, and cooking it. They would harvest vegetables from the garden daily and make their own butter from collected cream in a molcajete (lava stone grinder). "I learned a lot from those women," she says. Her recipes for tamales, mole and others are what got her her first restaurant. Back in the day there were four Mexican restaurants – Margaritas, Viva Zapata, Hernando's Hideaway and Chili's. Pregnant and craving tamales, Lucero asked if they carried them. It turns out, most people didn’t make them here back then. She tried satiating her cravings for flan and churros, but also to no avail. After weeks of asking for her native dishes, she made her own. After just one month, she’d created her own market – Viva Zapata bought her chorizo and tamales, another restaurant bought her flan. Her tamales were a hit at Hernando's Hideaway. She’d created a niche in just 30 days. Lucero’s brother-in-law had a real estate magazine lying around and she saw a restaurant for sale. Upon seeing Shapiro’s, a French restaurant on Bathurst Street, she has a vision of it being packed. After saving up enough money after only a year of selling her homemade fare to the other Mexican restaurants in town, she took a chance and opened La Mexicana in 1988. When she and her husband Dominic (a scientist at Wellesley Hospital at the time) opened, they had just 30 plates and 30 seats. They had to wait until diners finished their meal, so they could take dishes to be washed in the back in order to serve other tables. In 1990, the couple opened a second restaurant in Cabbagetown at Carleton and Parliament that lasted for 7 years. The chairs she made for the restaurant are now used at El Rincon Mexican on St. Clair West. In mid 2002, they expanded yet again with La Mexicana on Yonge across from the Reference Library. Her children were in university at this point, so Lucero wanted to be close to them. Little did she know the place was haunted. Dishes would fly off trays, apron strings would be pulled. Luckily, Lucero is a spiritual priestess and did a clearing and ceremony and all was well again. Cucina Lucero opened in 2007 at Yonge and Wellesley. It was created in the Puebla-style on 'Restaurant Makeover' in 2008, with interior decor and menu with Chef Lynn Crawford. With the original location in the heart of an Orthodox Jewish community, folks always asked if she offered kosher food. The demand was so great, Lucero found a partner to work on the kosher side of the restaurant and opened Lime Taco Fresh Mex Grill in 2011 on Clark. What is common throughout all the locations, is the care in which the food is made. Everything is made from scratch, including the tortillas. Lucero used to go to Mexico City twice a year to get corn husks, dried chilies. "There would be boxes everywhere," she says. Now she can get most stuff here, and continues to grind the corn for her tortillas. Lucero loves to make mole. Many people get theirs from a can or bottle, but she prefers to make it herself (she doesn’t use peanuts in it anymore to be sensitive to allergies and uses a high-grade cocoa). She makes her famous tamales twice a week in big batches because they are labour-intensive. And all desserts – flan, churros - are also made in house. Selections include everything from steamed corn on the cob smothered with mayo, shredded feta and chili pepper, to stuffed poblano peppers, and grilled fish with an achiote rub served in a banana leaf. Lucero's commitment and passion for authentic, homemade Mexican fare comes through in every dish, no matter what you decide to order or which location you visit. Check out our Facebook page for more photos.

By Stephanie Dickison Today marks the last day of The Restaurants Canada Show at Direct Energy Centre, where more than 12,000 foodservice professionals (restauranteurs, cateresrs, bar owners and other food service providers) are expected to attend. Restaurants Canada took a survey from over 400 chefs across the country to identify "top menu items and cooking methods."

By Stephanie Dickison Is there any better way to start the week than barbecue? Starting Monday June 6, you can dig into the first annual Toronto BBQ Week, presented by Samuel Adams. No need to fire up the grill at home as 15 Toronto restaurants will be offering a barbecue dish exclusive to their restaurant, paired with a pint of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, for $15. Dishes go well beyond your typical meat covered in barbecue sauce offerings. For instance, Beer Bistro is doing Hot Link Pork Sausage with Smoked Onion Dip & Duck Fat Fries; Campagnolo is featuring Lamb Spiducci with salt, pepper lemon & olive oil; Greenwood Smokehouse BBQ has created Smoked Pastrami Short Ribs With Roasted Cauliflower Purée, Mustard Jus, Pickled Radishes & Chive Oil; and The Harbord Room takes you to the seaside with their Lightly Smoked & Grilled Ocean Trout With Grilled Summer Vegetables, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Salsa Verde. Participating restaurants include:

Beer and barbecue? It doesn’t get more summery than that. Enjoy Toronto BBQ Week from Monday June 6 to Sunday June 12.

By Stephanie Dickison By dining out tomorrow, Wednesday, April 22nd 2015, you can help others. You can change lives. A Taste for Life's event will donate a percentage of sales to help Fife House provide residential programs and housing services for men, women and families living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto. To participate, simply select one of the 57 participating Toronto restaurants from our guide and make a reservation. It's important to let them know you’re coming for A Taste for Life. Because for each meal, the restaurant will donate 25% of the cost to Fife House. And not only will you be supporting a good cause, there are prices to be won: First Prize: WestJet trip for two to any destination they fly (value: PRICELESS) Second Prize: Food Dudes private dinner for six (value: $1,200) Third Prize: VIA Rail trip for two to Montreal (value: $700) And with 57 restaurants to select from, the choices are endless – French bistro or Italian cuisine? Thai or Mediterranean? Keep it casual and head to a pub or diner or dress up and head out for finely crafted sushi or to a spot downtown famous not just for its food, but vibe and cocktail list. Last year, A Taste for Life raised over $105,000 and attracted more than 3,500 people across Toronto. Help them make 2015 the best year yet. You can make a difference to those living with HIV/AIDS. And all you have to do is go out for dinner. So call your friends, family and colleagues and head out tomorrow night for what is sure to be a most memorable meal. (If you can't make the event and would like to support Fife House, you can make an online donation through CanadaHelps.)

By Michael Potters The Classic French Press. Mmmm. Brewing coffee can be more more sophisticated and gadgetry these days, and yet the French Press still has claim to the throne of one of the more popular brewing methods. Simple. Elegant. And a damn good brew method. You’ve seen them everywhere from Canadian Tire to the Bay. The stainless steel and glass not only looks great in the kitchen, but it also brews a great cup of coffee, especially for those that prefer a lot of body in their brew. Here are three ways to help improve your French Press coffee.  Trust me, you’ll notice a difference right away.

By Rose Reisman Another Playa Cabana restaurant, Cocina Economica, has taken the place of the Berkeley Café in the east end of the city.  Chef David Sidhu was inspired by many of the intimate and informal restaurants in Mexico. The name literally means "inexpensive kitchen" and that’s what it is! The appearance of the restaurant gives you the feeling that you’re entering a quaint and homey Mexican kitchen with the imported hand-painted clay pots and colourful tablecloths. It’s attracting both the neighbourhood residents as well as those looking for an authentic taste of Mexico. A tapas type menu starts your meal, including Bocaditas (a Spanish sandwich served with condiments), guacamole and chips and ceviche and quesadillas.  Main meals consist of delicious slow-cooked meats using lamb, pork, chicken and beef sold by the pound. Alongside the family-style of eating, the main meal is accompanied by beans, rice, tortillas and condiments. For those who aren’t carnivores, the vegetarian soy sausage is sensational. But the pièce de résistance is the Alfajor dessert, which is a corn flour cookie sandwich filled with Dulce de Leche and coated with coconut shavings. Great way to end this authentic Mexican experience. At home, give my Mexican corn and chicken soup a shot at your next Tex-Mex dinner! It's a perfectly spiced south western soup that’s easy to make and is filling enough to be the main course.

By Stephanie Dickison Chef Mark McEwan’s grocery store McEwan at the Shops of Don Mills is a food mecca – fresh meats, gourmet salads and rows of pantry items not available at your local supermarket. But for those in the downtown core, it’s quite the hike up to Don Mills and Lawrence. Breaking news! Starting tomorrow, commuters and locals can finally shop for epicurean delights conveniently under the TD Tower along the underground PATH. The stunning 6,000 square foot spot opens Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 6am and will be open weekdays until 7pm. Some of the features include: Grab and go gourmet items

  • Italian coffee and espresso
  • European pastries

Six daily soups

  • Panini station
  • 15-foot salad bar
  • 32-foot chef’s hot table
  • Pop up menu with daily features (gourmet tacos, poutine, banh mi)

Meal items

  • Prepared meats (braised short raised, pulled pork, whole chicken, fresh seafood)
  • Gourmet sides
  • Fresh veg

Pantry items

  • Homemade sauces, relishes and chutneys
  • Chef Mark McEwan’s own marinades, oils and pasta sauces

We’ll have a sneak peek for you later this week. In the meantime, enjoy the serious upgrade in your grocery shopping and meal preparation.

By Patricia Noonan Cachaça is the sexy South American sibling of rum, made using fermented, then distilled sugar cane juice instead of molasses for production. Like rums in the white spirits category, it shows great mixing potential. Try switching up white rum for cachaça in cocktails to get a taste of the "spirit of Brazil." Cachaça is the main event in a caipirinha - the famed cachaça cocktail - easily found in Brazilian-inspired Toronto bars like  CopaCabana Brazilian Steakhouse on Adelaide Street West. Caipirinha 1.5 oz cachaça 2 tbsp sugar 4 lime wedges Method Add lime and sugar to a rocks glass. Muddle to dissolve sugar and top with rushed ice; add the achaça and garnish with a wedge of lime. You can also add other seasonal fruits to the mix. At The Rum Exchange on Richmond Street West, owner Rumen Dimitrov carries over 130 different styles of rum including cachaça, which falls into the rum sideby virtue of the sugar cane juice it’s distilled from. While his bar brand is Pitu, Rumen carries several others, including an organic cachaça as well. "To me, it’s the rum I use in a drink that matters, not so much the mixology," he explains. Here is his cachaça version of a mojito: The Rum Exchange Mojito 1 tbsp sugar 4 wedges of lime Large mint sprig 2 oz rum or Pitu cachaça Club soda Method Add sugar and lime wedges into a collins glass and muddle gently. Take the mint sprig, gently slap it against the palm of your hand a few times to release the essential oils from the leaves. Then add the leaves to the lime and sugar, top with ice, add cachaça, and top the cocktail with club soda. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and a wedge of lime. While cachaça is great for other mixed drinks and cocktails, I ask Rumen what he would do to give it a sweet edge. "I’d shake it up with some condensed milk, to give it a creamy sweet taste and just keep it simple." With that, I think of my own experiments, like a drink I call "The Brazilian Tan." I just fill a rocks glass with ice, add one ounce each of cachaça and dark crème de cacao, and top with cream, for a dessert-like treat on a hot summer eve. Cheers!

By Corbin Tomaszeski Spring and summer bring us fruits in such abundance it’s hard to eat it fast enough. Sometimes we even eat so much of it, we spoil our dinners. Often, the natural inclination is to bake pies, but pies can be difficult to perfect, and take over an hour to make from start to finish, despite being sold as a "simple" dessert. Luckily, there are many core recipes you can look to to transform any fruit you have in excess that aren’t very labour intensive and offer wow factor beyond the humble pie.

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